Now before we begin I would like to say that I am actually by NO MEANS a Starbucks addict. I’m merely a connoisseur of the #PrettyBasic lifestyle. Note, I once drank espresso in front of the Coliseum. That's real caffeine! See I may be basic but I have culture.
Yes I wear Lulus to the gym, obvi I carry my S’well everywhere I go, and ofc you’d never see without my DryBar flat iron in my travel bag, BUT I again observe and appreciate these things. I’m not fixed on them. I say this because having a gold card is a sure fire sign that Starbucks is getting a fair amount of one’s salary. But in my case, I actually have never been a gold member until now. And the only reason I’ve reached this point is actually thanks to the help of gift cards I got from my college graduation.
Balancing my finances has been a part of adulting that I’ve had to take seriously since moving out of the 14456. (That’s Geneva’s area code.) Last week, I sat down and put on my smarty pants hat to get to work. After watching about 3 tutorials and skimming them appropriately, I opened up an excel file. With the help of my phone and bank’s app I started to document all of my recurring payments. From the date, to the name, and even the category it fell into, I built a cute and colorful record of what I pay monthly. You might be surprised, I know I was, but Starbucks was not breaking my bank.
Full transparency here, I have some pretty amazing parents. Without them my salary would have been bled dry even before I started working. They have contributed more than I deserve, yes really, in setting me up for success. I don’t pay rent, I don’t worry about car insurance, and most notably, I don’t have student loans. I left college debt free. Having this blessing is just what it sounds like, a blessing. Because my parents have done so much to help me learn to manage my own money I knew that blowing it on iced coffees could not do.
My repertoire of Starbucks orders is pretty extensive, like a grande light-iced-matcha iced tea lemonade like YUM, but honestly those aren’t my usual orders. Since college, my Starbucks order has limited itself to a grande iced coffee, no sweetener, and coconut milk. Yet, I only spring for the grande when I NEED that kick of caffeine. On most mornings, I brew loose leaf green tea at home. That’s major y’all. The same drink I make at home is roughly $2.45. Now if I got that maybe 3 times a week that would be almost $7.35 every week that I’m tossing away. I’m tossing that away because the same tin I buy at Tarjay of Teavana tea is like $6.00 and that gets me 15 whole packets!!!
Now I totally don’t buy the jargon that avocado toast is what makes millennials poor. We all know that’s because of institutional forms of oppression. #GetWoke But I do believe that financial literacy and monitoring spending habits is something that as young people we should learn. Keep in mind, I got a C in college level math and I majored in writing. But basic arithmetic is something to value. Thanks public school!
I was prompted to write this because when I got my mail my mom saw me open the envelope and she saw my gold card. She rolled her eyes and I knew what she was thinking. ‘He’s spending all his money there.’ Well mom, the truth is not really. I get my caffeine kick at home. The times that coffee crosses my mind are just when I really need a jumpstart for a good workout or when I know it’s gonna be a late day at some industry party or a star-studded screening. You know, just normal Will things.
But even when I need CRACK, aka coffee, I find it easier to make it at home. This beats having to worry about waiting for 15 minutes in a drive through for a drink I could slurp down in 2 good sips. Thanks for icing me friends… I am a civilized person though, so yes, I use a Keurig. I could NEVER be those people who drink drip coffee. Like freezing my coffee grounds, I’m talking about you Allie H, and then putting my coffee to drip and sit all day, I gag thinking about that.
I will rejoice in knowing I have joined an elite, and insane, crowd of people who think Starbucks is the shiiz. But this card is more a gimmick to me. I won’t be carrying it around with my other cards. Could you imagine how my Costco executive member card would feel being next to it? It could never take it seriously.
PS if I really wanted a good cup of coffee I’d just go to Coffee Bean! #SorryNotSorry!
Perhaps the most sacred purchase my mom has ever made for my siblings and I are our teeth. While I take pride in my luxury SLGs, my mom could care less about how much I’m spending as long as I can tell her where my retainers are hiding. These flimsy little plastic strips didn’t matter to me at first. But, after the second time my mom shelled out for braces, she made me care.
Getting braces is one of those expenses that I think is more than just cosmetic. As proven by dozens of YouTube vids and articles, having straight teeth is aligned with having optimal dental health. (HA did you see what I did there? Align. Ugh my MIND it AMAZES me sometimes...) The choice to get braces was one that my parents made as soon as my dentist gave me the green light. I was in 4th grade when I underwent the grueling procedure of getting my teeth primed, tightened, and banded for braces.
Now at this age most people might feel insecure about braces, but I wasn't. I was actually glad to have braces. I was relieved that instead of my teeth looking like a car crash on the 405 there was a chance that they would be in their own lanes. I think what also helped me was that all around me kids also started to get braces. Thus, I was never the odd one out nor was I ever called "brace face." I feel like that's one of those 90s TV things that was made up for analog. Anyways, I had braces from the middle of 4th grade until roughly the end of 7th grade. This adds up to almost 4 years. Even if it doesn't add up, let me live. I'm one of those weird people that always has to end in an even number...more on that when I get to my fitness blog...
What I will say is that I did become conscious about my braces when I had to get them the second time. Yup, that's right. Rather than live my life accordingly my stupid #idgaf attitude led to me having to undergo living wired all over again...for 4 whole more years. HOW did I get there?! Let me tell you...
So having braces requires practicing some maintenance. Now the standard rules are no gum, sugary drinks, popcorn, and flossing with these special little picks. Full disclaimer: I was that kid that ACTUALLY listened to my orthodontist. I did not want to risk messing up what my mom kept reminding me were thousands of dollars she was paying for my teeth. Nor did I want to look like some of my grimy friends who had caked on food on full display with their braces. My logic was that I was doing this to fix my teeth. If I had to brush a little more or skip on some foods then so be it! Now I only wish that I had had this diligence post braces life...
Getting braces was the first major procedure I had in my life. Now that I post wisdom teeth removal, LASIK, etc., I understand that the follow up is sometimes more important. Messing up my teeth taught me that.
After getting my braces off I was given those gaudy looking wire retainers. My doctor gave me them, a case, and a list of detailed instructions of how to use them. I think it was for the first few weeks I wore them diligently. Before I had a cell, my retainer case was lining my pocket as my most premium investment to date. Somewhere along the way I got lazy.
I thought that I was too good to keep wearing retainers. Days turned to weeks, and weeks turned to months without wearing my straight teeth insurance. My mom's nagging or pestering about them was in the right minded, but my adolescent mind wanted to rebel. At one point, I lost my retainers. Straight out I couldn't find them. And then one day my mom caught on... She asked me to show her my retainers and I had to tell her I lost them. Now my parents were pissed. The kind of pissed where the whole family was brought in, a spreadsheet was used to show how much was spent, and we all left quiet. Literally the next day, I was brought back into the orthodontist's office.
While I thought I would get a minor scolding, I imagined the relief of walking away with new retainers and getting a break. That was not the case. I was told I'd need braces again. Despite my top teeth looking fine, the bottom front teeth had shifted forward. Honestly, I was heartbroken. I was embarrassed. And I was pissed. What happened was that as my wisdom teeth were coming in all of my bottom teeth had shifted forward. The result was my bottom incisors all crashing together. I was noticing this more as I would notice pain when biting into food. But, I'm not a doctor so I didn't pay attention to it. I'm NOT kidding at night I would grab my finger and I tried pushing my teeth back! I REALLY thought that if I did this every night they would move like when I had braces. Again, leave it to the professionals.
After that initial visit, I came in a week later and I went through that same grueling process of getting braces again. I returned to a life of constantly brushing, flossing, and skipping out on the sweet joy of eating granola. I cannot imagine how I would manage this now knowing that acai bowls taste SO much better with honey and oats.
Four more years passed, from my first high school dance, to prom, and my first parties, I was there adorning my braces. This second time around, I was more conscious of my smile. Maybe it was because I was in the heated middle phase of being a teenager or because of the knowledge that this was self inflicted, but I was hiding my smile more. Again, it was in my head, but we all know how we are our own biggest critics. The silver lining was that I got my braces off before I headed into college. If you read my last post, then you know that my vision was the next chapter of my personal journey.
Now if you go through any of my social media handles you'll notice that my smile is front and center. The change in my teeth has been that first reminder of how we can transform our bodies for the better. That is, when it improves our quality of life. Without a fancy ending I'd say there we go. This is the story of how I got braces TWICE in my life. Because of teen angst I decided to ditch my wire and my mom paid the financial toll and I took the emotional toll of hiding my smile because of self esteem.
Having straight teeth should have been that thing that I had after all the time and care I had given them. Yet, this taught me that self care is a process and not a destination.
Since I was the plump young age of eight, I have worn prescription glasses. Wearing glasses was part of my identity as much as my forsaken swoop bangs and oversized sweaters. It was never something that made me insecure, but I found glasses as a burden. Forget about the times when I thought I lost them and my mom was ready to lose her mind as she screamed, “Don’t you take care of anything?!”
While wearing glasses didn’t bother me growing up, I started to consider alternatives when I reached college. With a little help from my dad, my mom agreed to let me get contacts. I had leveled up!
I don't want to bore you with too much about my life before LASIK, because the whole reason I underwent this surgery was in an effort to look forward in life. When asked why I chose to get LASIK it boils down to 3 things; it was cost effective, I qualified for the surgery, it would give a chance to change me for me.
Upon first glance, the sticker price for LASIK may not sound like it was cost effective, but hear me out. On average, most laser eye surgery range from $2,000 to almost $5,000. I fell into a sweet spot around $3,000 and in my opinion it was an investment. An investment done right. Whenever I ordered contacts I had the double whammy of getting 6 months worth for like $300 and then having to get an exam every year. If you do the math it adds up to almost thousands spent. No doubt, for a lifetime of clear vision I could skip on adding another Gucci belt to my collection.
Qualifying for LASIK was the second part of the equation that added up. I am not a professional nor am I well versed in the jargon, but basically you have to qualify for the surgery. Most people get approved if your vision has been consistent for a few years. You also need to have a cornea that's thick enough to be guillotined for the procedure. No amount of looking at your eye in a mirror will tell you if you qualify. You just have to go in and hear out what the doctor has to say.
Before I go into my last point I want to make it clear that even if the first two points click with you, really digest this last one. Getting any type of surgery should be something you do for you and only you. It doesn't matter how charming the nurses are, or persistent the doctor is, or even how glamorous influencers might make post botched life seem, if you don't feel it in your heart don't do it. Surgery is like any other service, it's an industry. That being said, imagine me climbing off my soap box. The most important factor in why I got LASIK was that I felt like it would make me happy. I am month post surgery and I must admit, I am so glad that I got my eyes zapped!
If you know someone whose had laser eye or seen the YouTube videos then you might know that this is a super quick surgery. Besides waiting in a chilly operation room for who knows how long, you're in and out in like 10 minutes. The nurses and doctor will both remind you that you can't drive home after LASIK. Cheers to my dad who not only hauled us home, but stopped to get me Starbucks on the way home. My summer order you may ask? Grande iced blueberry black tea!
Once I got home, I took the doctor's advice and slept! As long as I could! If you are awake then I promise you you will feel like knives dancing on your eyes. I managed to KO, and for the few moments when I felt a burn I used my drops. Sleep is your friend for both avoiding the real world and the pain of post operation. Something worth noting is that the results take time. I remember calling the clinic like 3 times in my first month, before my visit, because I thought I was going blind. Turns out all my symptoms from blurred vision to halos were just temporary. Like for real, you will see better, just chill out!
I'm now about 2 months since my surgery and it truly has been one of the best investments I've made. Way smarter than Swarovski coffee mugs, and only comparable to my joy of adding to the Gucci gang. If you are anyone you know is thinking of getting LASIK I'd say try it out! Go in for a consultation because you won't know your options unless you take a risk. It was the first step for me in catalyzing my process of being the adult Will that I tried so long to avoid. But now I'm an adult will pills to pay, and luckily a sound financial decision I made.
A tradition that I invented was that my first stop after coming home from school was going to the nearest In-N-Out and gramming it for all the world to see. Coming back from Geneva, NY every few months, I asked myself, 'What is the most obnoxiously L.A. thing I could do?' The list is long and included ideas like going to the Walk of Fame, strolling in Santa Monica, going live in Rodeo Drive, you get the idea. Stopping by this staple west coast food chain was frankly the fastest, cheapest, and easiest thing I could think of. For my first two years it was like clockwork. My dad would pick me up, I'd pass out in the car, and he would know where to go.
But in this last trip I broke my tradition, because if you know me you know I have 0 patience. And so when I saw that the drive through at my nearest In-N-Out reached out onto the street, hell it kissed the freeway exit, I said #thankunext. I was not about to wait in that whole line for a set of fries that just had Thousand Island dressing with like 3 other things in it. My dad didn't have to say anything either. I knew we he was pissed if he had to wait, and so we left. Yet, I hadn't learned my lesson.
I came home on Dec. 18, just in time to spend the holidays at home. Winter break has always been an awkward break period. It's long enough to where I get ample time to relax and get my fix of vitamin D. However, it's too short to where I don't properly get to catch up with people or go out and do what my heart desires. Because I still had my heart set on getting a great shot of me ordering my Animal style fries I tried going to In-N-Out again. This time I tried going to a spot 2o minutes away from my house. I wasn't necessarily starving, thus my patience level was at a 3 out of 5. When I finally pulled up, I saw that this line was also long. Without wasting a second, I found the exit and went to the next location I knew. The next stop was 10 minutes away from this one. I was still not that hungry, and not that annoyed since I had mentally primed.
This last stop hit my nerves. I had made a right and entered the parking lot to see that it was completely full, the line was curling out onto the street, and the line inside was cracking outside of the doors. I said, "Oh fuck this!" I hit reverse, prayed for that the car's detection system would react if something was coming, and I whipped the car back. The light was green and I was off. I wasn't breaking any laws or anything. I was going a cool 50mph, but now I was pissed. I returned home and just planned to grab dinner with a friend later. Sushi was healthier than In-N-Out and so I couldn't be mad. I was just annoyed. My dad heard my boots hitting the hallways and called me into his room. I pivoted back and he was sitting in his recliner and turned off the tv. He looked at me, straight faced, and asked, "Why are you so stupid?"
My cheeks started to flush and I quipped out, "What the hell do you mean?" He didn't flinch and with a cool tone said, "Why are you wasting your time trying to get a cheap burger when you could get something that actually taste good? I don't see how a $10 combo compares to something you can get at a nice restaurant where you can take good pictures, see you friends, or do whatever you want to do." I stood there with a red hot face, fists clenched, and I didn't know what to say. He was right. He made a legitimate point.
Since that encounter I have had time to think. While it came off rude, my dad made a point.
I was chasing a vapid and meaningless image of the L.A. lifestyle to show off to my friends. In a weird way, I wanted to legitimize where I was from to people who I had barely, or never, met. Yet, I had nothing to prove to anyone. I knew where I was from. Hell my area code says it all! I had just wanted to be one of those people with photos showing off how good my break was. Now I'm realizing that I'm from that place that people come to for their breaks, or dream of seeing in person. Thus, I'm living a dream.
In short, In-N-Out you can take someone else's money, because I'm skipping the fries and extra spread on the side for bottomless mimosas sitting on the beach side.
I think we all like to think that the past is something that we won't return to. Time, people, and places are all things we have to learn to leave behind in our constant process of reinvention and self discovery. But, this summer taught me something special in thinking about what came before. We need to sometimes retrace our steps in order to remember the person we once were to see how much we've learned and how forward we can actually go. Most of my close friends and family know that I've had a turbulent last few weeks.
I've had days full of laughs leaving my ribs tender and my cheeks are sore from smiling, and there's been nights where I buried my phone away under a mountain of pillows and my only company is a lukewarm Venti soy matcha latte and familiar episodes of Modern Family. In talking to my friends about returning to campus for our senior year, I literally feel so old!, I noticed that my mood has started shifting. From my Instagram posts, to the emojis I'm using again, I'm starting to feel like my old self again. But, I know that's absolutely impossible. Why is that you may ask? Because, in the short few weeks I've been home I've learned so much about myself by going back to my roots.
Like my friend Mallory said, "Things get a thousand times easier when you're in L.A.!" And she's right on the money! Being back home affords me the opportunity to connect with friends and colleague from as far back as high school, to newer members of my circle. From the friends who knew me during my Justin Bieber hair era, to my friends who survived the Hollywood trenches with me last summer, it took going back just to see how far I've come.
"We are always in the process of becoming." It's something my Posse mentor used to tell me when I was going through the thick of it at school. Being an aspiring writer, I'm all about good quotes. And this has become a quote I live by and often share with others when they ask me for advice.
I have learned that along with trusting the process, in my case my journey of navigating the world of entertainment, I also have to trust my skills and talents in the process. In a time where everyone has a smart phone and everyone swears they're an influencer, it can be hard in thinking that I'm destined for a career in something related to new/digital media.
This summer has taught me that comparing myself to others isn't a catalyst for growth, it actually curtails it.
There's no way of describing my summer in a way that makes it seem traditional, and that's because it hasn't been. I jumped from full-time, to unemployed, to giving it my all in a month long internship. All this jumping around made me feel unorganized and I thought that I was regressing as a person and a young professional. However, it was through losing my footing that I saw how my friends and family could help me create an even better platform. As summer winds down and the date creeps up when I have to fly back for Geneva, NY, I have tried my best to give even more depth with the people who pulled me back to me.
"You know for someone so young you have a great sense of voice," said my friend and Academy mentor to me while we talked about my upcoming trip back to school. It's something I have heard before, but hearing it this time I started to actually buy into it.
There a lot of people my age with a lot more followers, better style, and better hair than me. But, I'm not those people. I'm a son, brother, and grandson in a beautiful Latin family, from Los Angeles, CA, who moved to New York to brave the cold. I went from being 20 minutes away from Hollywood to being 2,000 miles away. Yet, because of luck and persistence, I found my way back. I even ended up at one of the biggest awards shows in the world! So yeah, I love snapping my life just like everyone my age, but I also know why I do it. I'm a communicator through writing and through digital media. I do it because I understand how media and identity intersects.